Big Thank you to Yayra editor of Ghana, I Love you and Tope Eletu, curator of Bad Girls Confidence for their wonderful reviews on African Lens.


Truly an Honor..Aaron

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Photography Courtesy: Dayo Adeoti


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African Lens is a visual collective from African photographers both in the motherland and the diaspora. 
The project aims at showcasing and sharing Africa as we know it using photography thus, 
an open window into the world of Africans via the lens of African Photographers.

Featuring:

Curated by Aaron Yeboah Jr.
Afterword by Julius Amedume 
170 pages
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Everything is a visual experimentation for me, and the point is how a perceptual experience is related to visions,
and how to transfer it to illustrations. It's a matter of feelings. - Michela Picchi
Amazing artworks by Michela Picchi, a visual artist based in Berlin,Germany.
Connect with Michela Picchi via:






Cool Toy cars made by industrial design student Tai Geng.
The toy cars are made from recycled chair casters, discarded plastics, and scrap wood.


Sculptor Edoardo Tresoldi has been in touch with news of his latest installation "Pensieri (thinkings)".
The installation was made for Oltre il Muro festivalheld in Sapri, Italy.
Below is a short video of the installation:













Artist Statement:
In contrast to other arts and human endeavors, an architect/designer is the one which is most generated by intellect, consciousness and reason. He is only intuitive to a degree. The use of geometry in the organization and calculation of proportion and dimension plays an important role in architecture. It gives a degree of self-control, and allows the architect to follow rules, which if not followed, would lead to a dead-end. There would be arbitrariness, and then how could one continue? In geometry, one always finds a circular argument that brings things together again - providing direction and flexibility.

Incredible geometric illustrations made by Korea-based creative David Mrugala.

Connect with David Mrugala via:



As promised, here is my interview with legendary photographer Jamel Shabazz. 
We had an in-depth talk about wide range of topics. 
Without further ado, here is what we talked about. Enjoy!


When was your first experience with photography and what was it about photography that sparked your interest? 

I was very fortunate to have a father, a professional photographer who exposed me to the craft during my preteen years. Unbeknownst to him, I would find great delight in viewing the various photography and art publications he had in his treasured, well organized library. There were all types of photography books and monthly periodicals; an entire "Time Life" series of photography books addressing everything from creating themes to understanding light and composition. However, my attention was drawn towards photographs that showed the horrors of war.  One photographer whose work etched in my mind is Magnum photographer Phillip Jones Griffith.  I had seen images of war before, but it was his up close and personal photographs from conflicts in Northern Ireland, Biafra, Algeria and Vietnam that allowed me to see the role of the "concerned" photographer and how he or she can create images that can provoke thought and create conversations and his work exemplified the best of it.  Around that same time, I came upon another important body of work called  "Black in White America"  a monograph by  photographer Leonard Freed. It was in this book that I saw the ugly face of Jim Crow racism for the very first time in my life. Not only was I seeing provocative images of a segregated America, but I was reading the text that gave me a greater understanding of his journey  and message he was trying to convey. This one book would served as my introduction to what it was like to be black in a white America. I learned very fast that through his vision that there was a serious world outside the confines of my community and I was eager to go outside and learn more.

 My objective was to speak to the youth about the ever growing problem of fratricide and senseless violence within the community that was taking countless young lives away prematurely, it was not just about talk, I wanted to work with them to find solutions.

How did you find your direction and what made you decide to document your time?

I found my direction upon returning back to the shores of North America after being away from home for 3 years, having served in the United States Army in Germany. I came home in July of 1980 and it seemed like I stepped right into a war zone.  Quite a few of my peers had been shot, some stabbed and a few murdered. I was pained by what I saw, so I decided to take to the streets with my camera and go out and engage youth from various communities to get a feel of what was going on. I found that being an insider gave me somewhat of a pass,  there was practically no one taking pictures at the time of young people,
so the timing was ripe. My objective was to speak to the youth about the ever growing problem of fratricide and senseless violence within the community that was taking countless young lives away prematurely, it was not just about talk, I wanted to work with them to find solutions. The camera became a magnet that drew a lot of people to me.  As I realized its power, I decided to use it to my advantage to engage youth everywhere I went; first letting know I had just come home from the military and that I had a sincere concern about their well being. Once they let their guard down we would have conversations about life, and
I would take a photograph to always remind me of the encounter and whenever possible, I would make a couple of prints for my many subjects.
I immediately found that these encounters allowed me to better understand what was happening, and at the same time offer solutions while recording history.
This was my epiphany and I realized that this was my life's calling.  

You have blessed us with your work since 1975. Did you know your work will stand the test of time and have such a huge impact on people and culture?

I would have never imagined, nearly forty years ago that I would have been blessed to contribute to the preservation of a very important history and culture,
in addition to inspiring young people both here and abroad to embrace photography. The whole experience has been very humbling.

What are some of the African American history/ culture from the 70's that has not been fully addressed that need to be addressed? 

One of the main issues that is often overlooked is the disproportionate amount of poor black and brown men that were drafted and sent to the front lines during the Vietnam war; many lost their lives, thousands were wounded and a large portion came home suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This was all occurring during a time when heroin was being systematically pushed in Black communities all over America contributing to a high rate of incarceration and addiction. The 70's was a time of change representing the birth of Hip Hop, the airing of the mini series Roots on national television that inspired a whole generation of African Americans to learn more about their culture and take on African and Islamic names, and the rise of the so called "Black Exploitation"  film genre. In my opinion many of these types of films addressed various issues with the African American community, from war, drugs, self identity and racism. The following are films that resonated with me,"Gordons' War", Five on the"Black Hand Side", "Three the Hard way", "Buck Town" and "The Spook who sat by the door". Lastly, the national syndicated television program  Soul Train" was introduced, allowing us to see the various musical talents that came from our community, mixed in with great commercials that catered to the black audience as well. The 70's was a revolutionary time.

Who are some of the key people that influenced you early on in your photography journey?

My father created the cornerstone for the foundation I stand on today. If it wasn't for his love of the craft and exposing me to photography early on, I don't know where I would be today. Of course documentary photographers Leonard Freed, Philip Jones Griffith, James Van Der Zee, Gordon Parks, Roy Decarava, Edward S Curtis, Joseph Rodriguez,  Robert Sengstacke, and Eve Arnold. Each photographer in their own way played a major role in my development and deeper appreciation for the craft, both in the images they created and in the explanation to their creative process. And I can never thank Professor Deborah Willis [NYU Tish School of the Arts] enough for being a guiding light for me over the many years, along with having faith in my vision when I was just starting out on my long and often uncertain journey, she always offered encouraging words and served as an excellent role model to me.

For three generations, you have photographed people from all walks of life. How do you pick your subjects to photograph?  Are there any certain elements that draws your attention?

Often times  I select subjects that have a story to tell, but every situation differs. One of the important lessons that was given to me by my father was the importance of having themes. Keeping that in mind, I would seek out  high school students, young males and females who were at a particular crossroad in their lives and who were also at the greatest risk of violence. In addition, having grown up during the Vietnam war and seeing so many images from that conflict, I had a  special interest in documenting veterans that fought in that conflict. Families and young couples always drew my attention too.

What has been the most remarkable moment for you so far? 

The most remarkable moment for me thus far as been realizing my purpose in life and atoning for all of the misdeeds I have committed in my state of unawareness.

What are some of the major challenges you experienced?

The biggest challenges that I faced in the past was transitioning into the complex and often political art world. This led me to a point where I was faced with coming to the realization that I could no longer wear two masks. Becoming an author and now a recognized artist came to me suddenly, as I had no idea that my first book "Back in The Days" would generate so much interest internationally. In receiving a lot of attention, I had to make adjustments and develop a whole new strategy and approach to embark upon this new path. I was being presented with book signings, exhibitions, workshops, teaching opportunities, advertisement campaigns, and hundreds of interviews. To add to this situation, in the 1990s one of the most repressive times in New York history, I was working full- time in the "heart of the belly of the beast," striving to be upright in an atmosphere full of hate, violence and injustice.

There were many vicious cases of  police brutality such as the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles, the OJ Simpson verdict, and the height of the crack epidemic, that changed the climate in the country overnight. Very deep times!! The Million Man March reinvigorated my soul and gave me the motivation and drive I needed to move forward. In having to contend with this and the overall tense atmosphere, I felt the need to wear two masks so that I could better navigate through these difficult times. I knew that as a Black Man, I would always be despised and hated by many, having to be on guard for the unexpected.
However, numerous teachers provided me with guidance, many of them; Curtis Mayfield with his song "No Thing On Me" kept me motivated and all of what Gil Scott Heron stated in his creations fed my spirit. The song "Prisoner" reminded me of all those that were locked down unjustly, which taught me empathy, as  I always strove to embrace its power. Music was the spiritual food that kept me focused and I would listen to nothing but positive and inspiring songs that addressed almost every situation I was encountering.

This question you presented is so complex that I can go on for days breaking down the challenges I had to meet and overcome on a regular basis and today, nothing has really changed, because I continue to face challenges and the reality is that as long as I have life in me, I will.  Everyday is a constant struggle and there are unseen forces always trying to lead you astray, so I work hard to be an upright man, striving to live according to the commandments and forever seeking atonement for my past misdeeds.      

How has the experience and exposure to different cultures and people around the world helped you as a photographer and an individual? 

One of the greatest blessings that I had the opportunity to experience as both a man and photographer on the path of life, has been meeting and documenting so many diverse and wonderful people of various cultures and countries. Every encounter for the most part was an enriching and rewarding experience. I also learned not to prejudge anyone due to their cultural or personal belief, but to take time and strive to see the inner beauty and greatness that many people possess.

Music in general especially Hip-hop has been a major part and influence of your work.You have witnessed the early stages, growth and evolution of Hip-Hop. What do you think is the unique connection between music and photography?

Music has always played a major role in my life. Right before I picked up the camera, I was playing the bass guitar and playing in a local band, all of the members were graffiti artists from my crew as well. Ironically, when I picked up my first camera in 1975, the music that is now known as Hip Hop, was being born. Coffey Park in Red Hook, one of the largest housing projects in Brooklyn would during the mid 1970's come alive with performances by the Disco Enforcers, some of the best DJ's and Mc's in Brooklyn. They were some of the best that did it. This new genre of music resonated with me, and I would go on to develop a deep love for putting together serious mix tapes on my Pioneer reel to reel. As a photographer, my vision was greatly inspired by many of the album covers of that time, I learned how to pose my subjects and photograph groups, that would later become my trademark.  
What artists like Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scott Heron, Yasiin Bey, Guru, Common and Rakim, do with their musical gift I strive to transmit a similar message, by the images I create. Many of the titles to their countless list of songs, could also serve as captions/ titles to so many of my photographs. One of the main unique connection between music and photography is the fact that they are both universal languages, and have the power to heal and provoke thought.

What are you currently listening to? 

I am currently listening to the live sound of the ocean, this has become some what of a daily pratice for me, as I go strive to gain inner peace and balance.
For inspiration and clarity,  I listen to Yasin Bey " Umi Says, Marvin Gaye's "What's  Happening Brother," and "In Search of Truth" by Lonnie Liston Smith. Those three songs always have a way to fuel my soul and remind me of my purpose.

In your opinion how do you define creativity and how important is creativity to you?

Creativity is a divine gift that every man and women is born with. It is something that just needs to be discovered and nurtured, very much like potential energy. Having creativity is very important to me, for it is the compass that guides me on the path of life and without it I would be aimless.

Is there one thing you've learned over the years that has really stuck with you?

One of the greatest life lessons that I have learned overtime is to be grateful and also maintain a degree of humility.

Is there a specific country, you have not been yet that you would like to go one day?

Vietnam, Ghana and Senegal are places I would like very much to visit and document.

Where is your favorite spot in New York and in your opinion what is unique about New York that sets it apart from any other place?

 My most favorite place in New York City is a 585 acre landscape in Brooklyn called Prospect Park, that is my Oasis in Brooklyn. It is a  place where I have gone since my youth to seek serenity and peace of mind; away from the constant hustle and bustle of the concert  jungle. In my opinion, what makes NYC unique is that it is a microcosm of the entire world. Here you will find practically every culture and people; second to no other city on the globe.

The power of photography is having the ability to freeze time and record history.

What is the most important factor to you in photography and what do you think is the power of photography? 

The most important factor for me is being a contributor towards the preservation of world history and culture. The power of photography is having the ability to freeze time and record history.

It is very important that we record history and tell our stories.  Do you have any advise for this generation on the the importance of documenting our time and culture? 

My advice to this generation would be to take full advantage of the technical tools you have available to document life around you. A good theme to start with could be ones family, particularly the elders. Many of them have accumulated a wealth of information during their years on this universe, so it would be beneficial to interview them to tap into that knowledge and insight in order to preserve the oral history.  Lately, I think it's a good practice to carry your camera everywhere you go because you never know when you may enter a decisive moment.

Are they any young photographers whose work have caught your attention? 

I have the privilege to know a number of talented young photographers and Terrence Jennings is one. For over 20 years, he has been documenting major events in the African American community. Russell K Fredericks, Wayne Lawrence, Nema Etebar and Akintola Hanif are all very gifted visonarires that have created substantial bodies of work capturing people and communities that are often forgotten. In addition, there is Lauri Lyons, Delphine Dialo, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Delphine Fawundu Buford and Katina Parker; young women who have made major contributions in the world of documentary photography.

What is next for you..any upcoming project you would like to share?

Presently, I am building the foundation for  two new book endeavors. The first book project is entitled ' "The Book Of Life" : Photographs from 1975- 2015. This book will mark my 40 year journey and showcase many of the people and places I have been so blessed to have documented. The second project is a book tentatively  called "  Black in White in America: The Struggle Continues." Both are works in progress and are very close to my heart. It is my hope to find a publisher that can see the value in these new bodies of work.





Connect with Jamel Shabazz via:

Books by Jamel Shabazz: